Divine Meaning (Thomas Torrance)

Complex Background

Athanasian thought would ultimately part with the Hellenistic separation (chorismos) between “kosmos aisthetos” and “kosmos noetos.” 


Dialectic between pleroma and kenoma.  We can only know what God is not (Basilides). Thus, without a positive epistemological control, the Gnostics were thrown back upon mythology to make sense of God. 

Relatively speaking, the kenoma is a realm of non-existence. How, then, can we offer any account of the way things really are, if we can only think them in a vast vacuum or blank? (Torrance 31).  “If we seek to know God by pushing abstraction of him to the limit of an infinite discrepancy between what he is and what we can think of him, then our thoughts and statements can only be about nothing, and we are simply engaged in empty movements of speech and thought within the kenoma.”

If our knowledge of the descending realms of kenoma are merely shadows, and these realms are shadows, then the Gnostics face a problem: how can shadows cast shadows?  But if the shadows can’t cast shadows, then the idea and paradeigmata in the intelligible world are substantial bodies or essences—then have we not just lapsed back into heathen pluralism” (32).

Irenaeus and Kerygma

It is embodied truth or embodied doctrine (61).  

Hellenism had to have allegory because Hellenism posited a chorismos between the sensible world and the intelligible world, and since they could never touch, allegory allowed one to “jump” from one world to the other.  To this Irenaeus opposed typology.  There is an inseparable relation between word and event (101).  Therefore, “the distinction between aletheia and tupos is not that between intelligible and sensible…but between the preparatory action of God in history pointing forward to…his final action in the Incarnation and Atonement through which all things are changed and brought to their fulfillment” (102). 

“Recapitulation means that redemptive activity of God in Jesus Christ was not just a transcendent act that touched our existence in space and time at one point, but passed into our existence and is at work within it, penetrating back to the beginning in the original creation retracing it and reaffirming it in the divine Will, and reaching forward to the consummation in the new creation in which all things are gathered up, thus connecting the end with the beginning” (121).

Hermeneutics of Clement

“Faith itself is the basic form of understanding and its source” (130).

“Epistemology” is derived from stasis, for it is a standing of the mind upon objective realities.

Athanasius:  Foundation of Classical Theology

Torrance makes the claim that Athanasius came from the episcopal school in Alexandria, and not the catechetaical school. This means he would have absorbed the Hebraic outlook of St Mark

Two kinds of demonstration:

Athanasius came to reject the dualism of “kosmos aisthetos” and “kosmos noetos.” 

His main argument:  while God is beyond created being and all human devising (epinoia), he nevertheless remains being in his own transcendent way.  His ousia is being and activitiy. 

The Doctrine of God

Key premise: he cut the identity between the generation of the Son and the creation of the universe.  In generation there is an identity of nature, in creation there is a disparity of natures (Florovsky).

God in his internal relations: “Since the Logos is internal to the being of God, essentially and eternally enousios in God, truly to know God in and through the Logos is to know him in the inner reality of his own Being” (186).  

The doctrine of the Son

Redemption takes place within the mediatorial life of the Incarnate Son.  Salvation “takes place in the inner relations of the mediator (mesites) and not simply in Christ’s external relations with sinners” (193). 

Theological Language and Method

There is a rigorous knowledge of the inner structure of things investigated (204).  

The Logic and Analogic of Biblical and Theological Statements in the Greek Fathers

  1. The Spirit and Knowledge of God
    1. Athanasius and Paul: Only the Spirit knows the things of God.
    2. Our minds are directed away towards the proper object in God to be governed by his Word.
  2. Homoousion: basic logical economy which governs theological grammar in accordance with the pattern of God’s own self-communication in the Incarnation.
    1. it breaks up the radical disjunction between kosmos aesthetos and kosmos noetos.
    2. It keeps our thoughts from being imprisoned within themseles, but directs them dianoia in God, kata physin kai alethos.
  3. Ana-Logical Reference
    1. What God is to us in Jesus Christ he is eternally in himself.
    2. If we know via the Logos, then all true theological statements will be consistent with one another in so far as they have the Logos as their center of reference.
    3. Oikonomia
      1. Later on this was changed to mean “in reserve.” Only economical, where God is to us not quite what he appears to be.
      2. Rather, because of the Incarnation of the Logos God really imparts knowledge and himself to us.
  4. Logos as Person
    1. He is God’s self-communication
    2. If he were Word only, we “would be thrown back upon our own resources to authenticate him; if he were Person only, we would be thrown back upon our own resources to interpret him…
    3. “But because he is both Word and Person, he interprets and authenticates himself”.
    4. As self-communicating, he is self-authenticating

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